MSPs pick 'local heroes' for Scottish Parliament opening

Local heroes composite

Community volunteers and champions will take part in an elaborate procession marking the opening of the Scottish Parliament this weekend.

All 129 MSPs have been invited to nominate a "local hero" to join the historic Riding of Parliament, from Edinburgh Castle along the Royal Mile.

A football coach, a Brownies leader, and a number of charity fundraisers are among those who have been selected.

The Queen will officially open the fifth session of the parliament.

BBC Scotland has spoken to some of those nominated as local heroes.

Image copyright Joan McAlpine

Shelby Watson

Wheelchair athlete Shelby Watson, from Johnstonebridge in Dumfries and Galloway, was born with cerebral palsy.

But the 18-year-old has never let her condition stand in the way of her ambitions on the track.

She currently holds the world records in the T33 class at 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m, as well as the three mile marathon and the seven mile marathon.

The champion was nominated to take part in the Scottish Parliament opening ceremony by her local MSP, Joan McAlpine, who described her as an "exceptional young woman".

"Shelby's achievements are truly inspirational," she said.

"She has only been wheelchair racing for a few years but has already broken international records and collected gold medals for Scotland.

"As well as conducting her own training she coaches younger children. She never lets her disability define her and is a very inspirational young woman."

Gerry Akroyd

Over four decades, Gerry Akroyd has become as familiar a figure on Skye as the Cuillins themselves.

A lifelong mountaineer, he began leading the island's mountain rescue team in 1973 - just a year after relocating to Scotland from the north of England.

Now aged 71, he admits that his role is now more about organising and delegating than scaling the mountains.

"I still get up the hill but I'm not as fast as I was," he said.

The grandfather, who became an MBE in 2009, was nominated by MSP Kate Forbes, who wanted to recognise the work of all the mountain rescue teams in her constituency of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch.

"Volunteers, and it's important to remember that the mountain rescue teams are volunteers, go out in all weathers whenever the call goes out," she said.

The MSP added: "We have fantastic terrain in Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch that attracts thousands of climbers and walkers every year, most of whom come to no harm.

"In the unfortunate cases where rescues and searches are required, it's a blessing to have the ready, sacrificial dedication of the mountain rescue teams."

Image copyright Euan Gibson

Euan Gibson

When the RNLI closed St Abbs lifeboat station in September 2015, residents of the tiny Borders village vowed to fight back.

Led by former London banker Euan Gibson, the community of just over 100 people raised more than £400,000 to establish an independent lifeboat station.

A new lifeboat, to be named after Thomas Tunnock, the grandfather of the largest donor, Boyd Tunnock, is expected to be delivered next month.

Mr Gibson, who was nominated by Paul Wheelhouse MSP, said: "I was surprised - I never did this for any recognition.

"The lifeboat is an integral part of the community and it was something I was always passionate about even before I was involved in the campaign.

"To do anything properly, you have to believe in it."

Image copyright AP

Innes Mathers

A retired district nurse, Innes Mathers was inspired to help refugees fleeing Syria while watching distressing television news reports from Lesbos.

In January the 63-year-old travelled to the Greek island where she worked at the Hope Centre, a former hotel converted to help those arriving on the island's shores.

She said she saw mainly families from Syria and Iran land on the coastline but she expressed fears about those who had not made it to land.

"We don't know what's at the bottom of the Aegean Sea because not all the overturned boats have been reported.

"Nobody knows how many there have been - people are just desperate."

Miss Mathers was nominated by Clydesdale MSP Aileen Campbell.

Image copyright Glasgow Airport

Keith Banks

After retiring from his role as a senior officer with the Salvation Army, Keith Banks became chaplain of Glasgow airport in 2009.

As well as supervising the multi-faith prayer room, he offers support to passengers as they travel, and also to the 5,000 staff who work across the airport's campus.

"While a minister has a church, I have the airport," he said. "Our customers, staff and everyone who travels through are my congregation."

Mr Banks was nominated by Maurice Golden, an MSP for the west of Scotland.

He said: 'Keith always makes time for people; whether that be commuters on the red eye to London, holidaymakers bound for Spain or refugees seeking a safe haven.

"He also takes time to get to know the hundreds of staff that make Glasgow Airport run smoothly; from ground crew and air traffic controllers to security staff and those working in the various retail outlets.

"He has numerous informal chats, acts on concerns and supports staff and their families particularly during difficult times."

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